Electric Black Futures Partners Celebrate Earth Day and the Rich Heritage – and Future – of Albany

On Earth Day, we joined SOWEGA Rising in Albany, Georgia, for "Tech Flex Innovation Earth Day," a celebration focused on e-mobility advancements and forward thinkers dedicated to their communities like Joshua Anthony.  

Madelyn Collins | June 7, 2024 | Clean Transportation, Electric Black Futures, Electric Vehicles, Georgia

On Earth Day last month, SACE and EVNoire, united in helping to craft a more just and dynamic electric e-mobility future, came out to support an event orchestrated by SOWEGA Rising in Albany, Georgia. “Tech Flex Innovation Earth Day” was a great opportunity to celebrate Earth Day and the future of technology grounded in innovation, sustainability, and ingenuity.

Left to Right: Chris Heron of EVNoire, Aunquarius Brown of SOWEGA Rising, Sherrell Byrd of SOWEGA Rising, and Madelyn Collins of Southern Alliance for Clean Energy

SOWEGA Rising is the newest project partner to join Electric Black Futures, an exciting project SACE and our partners EVNoire and Clean Cities Georgia recently launched to advance equitable access to electric vehicles (EVs), infrastructure, and jobs in underserved communities in Georgia. With funding from the U.S. Department of Energy over the next three years, we will join multiple local partners to support Black communities and shape the e-mobility landscape in Albany, Savannah, and Atlanta. SOWEGA Rising will spearhead efforts to ensure seamless communication and engagement within Albany communities. SOWEGA is also co-leading the creation of a community-centered strategic plan to align federal electric transportation funding with community mobility needs and priorities in Albany.

Pictured: Joshua Anthony, 21-year-old student at Georgia State University and recent candidate for Georgia’s 153rd House District seat

The Electric Black Futures team was also delighted to meet a few community champions at the event. These leaders are already carving out a greener, more just future. One of these trailblazers, Joshua Anthony, came by the Electric Black Futures table to share his innovative transportation vision for Albany. Anthony is a 21-year-old student at Georgia State University who recently ran for a seat in the Georgia House, seeking to represent Georgia’s 153rd House District, which includes downtown Albany. He is a local Albany descendant who has big dreams of growing and nourishing his hometown, and is determined to manifest the future he envisions.

Joshua shared his five-year revitalization plan, which includes building an electric light rail system to connect his hometown with other Southwest Georgia cities. He explained how Albany once had a goal to be the railroad hub of Southwest Georgia, but this priority became neglected as time passed. Joshua is determined to resurrect and implement this historic Albany dream:

“The goal of a light rail would be to connect our southern hub of communities in tandem with Albany, bolstering our economic power across southwest [Georgia].”

Anthony imagines a clean transportation future that doesn’t leave the people of his town scrambling to find a ride, one that taps into the increased economic and social opportunities that come with better connectivity and transportation systems. This light rail project could be a vital alternative to the Greyhound and transit buses currently running in Albany, especially considering recent transportation hardships the community members have faced and the shortage of bus drivers.

Left to right: Dory Larson and Madelyn Collins of SACE tabling, community members of Albany checking out electric vehicles

The Earth Day event was held outside the Thronkeesta Heritage Center, which sits on the last remaining brick street in the city in Albany. The term “thronateeska,” derived from the Muskogee Creek language, is often translated as “place of flint gathering.” The Lower Muskogee Creek Tribe, located east of the Mississippi River, has its headquarters at Tama Tribal Town in Whigham, Georgia, about 60 miles south of Albany. “Thronateeska” refers to the area covering present-day Albany and the Flint River in Southwest Georgia.

In 1974, concerned citizens spearheaded the revitalization of Albany’s historic downtown railroad depot area and created the Thronateeska Heritage Foundation, Inc. Today, Thronateeska’s Heritage Plaza houses the Science Museum, Wetherbee Planetarium, and History Museum. This location was the perfect backdrop for SOWEGA Rising to host this Earth Day event, which was a beautiful convergence of the innovations of the past, present, and future.

Sustainable technology and its beneficial impact on communities like Albany was the central theme of the event. Community members had chances to experience advancements in e-mobility, as well as cyber security, drone technology, health, gaming, robotics, and more. SACE and EVNoire provided education and hands-on experiences, allowing participants to drive cutting-edge EVs. While riding along in the EVs and talking to folks at the event, SACE and EVNoire listened to participants’ stories of community innovation and their visions for a desirable electric mobility future!

Video: SOWEGA Rising’s CUE Coordinator Aunquarius Brown taking his first test drive in an EV

In addition to test drives, SACE and EVNoire offered education to build community awareness about different avenues available for education and career paths in the field of e-mobility, including horizon opportunities to participate in Electric Black Futures’ project work for futurescoping development of e-mobility technology in their communities.

For many in Albany, this was a first encounter with electric vehicles, and the experience opened eyes to the possibilities of how innovations in transportation can intersect with community needs to foster social connectivity, recreation, and leisure – to reduce transportation barriers and promote a clean, accessible multimodal system that centers social inclusion. It was also a chance for community members to learn about workforce and career growth opportunities in the e-mobility field, such as the Electric Vehicle Fundamentals (EVF) program at Albany Technical College, facilitated by another Electric Black Futures project partner, the Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG). Albany Technical College is one of the many colleges in the TCSG system to provide a low-cost, non-college degree pathway for EVF to prepare students for the certification test necessary to embark on a career as an SME-EV entry-level worker and to access advanced manufacturing career pathways.

“It’s unlocking possibilities and unleashing potential! Tech Flex Innovation Earth Day brought innovation to life. Many organizations joined us for a day of inspiration and collaboration in environmental and climate justice and creativity as we explored the latest technologies and trends shaping our future here in southwest Georgia!” – Aunquarius Brown, SOWEGA Rising’s Climate, Utilities, and Environmental Justice Coordinator and lead for Electric Black Futures’ Albany community liaison work

The Electric Black Futures team left the event inspired, informed, and equipped with a newfound understanding of ways this project can use its bandwidth and connections to collaboratively empower and futurebuild within Black communities in Georgia so that they have the tools and knowledge needed to build an e-mobility future that reflects their visions and needs.

Electric Black Futures is a collaborative program between Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, EVNoire, and Clean Cities Georgia, committed to invigorating e-mobility leadership and job opportunities in Black communities in Atlanta, Savannah, and Albany, Georgia. By centering communities’ knowledge, vision, culture, and imagination, this project aims to put more Black hands at the helm of driving the direction and crafting the electric future. To learn more, visit the Electric Black Futures website, sign up for email updates, or email [email protected].

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Madelyn Collins
From as early as she can remember, Madelyn Collins has been connecting to the knowledge, impact, and work of healing environmental injustices. Originally growing up in New Orleans, Louisiana, Madelyn…
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